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Open-access articles don't generate more citations, says study

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A new study has concluded that open-access academic articles get read more often but don't generate more citations.

Researchers at Cornell University in the USA randomly assigned 247 articles in 11 scientific journals, to free access. They measured how many times these articles were downloaded, the number of unique visitors to each article and how many times each article was cited.

‘There were definitely more article downloads for freely accessible articles,’ said Philip Davis, a former science librarian who designed the study. ‘Yet nearly half of these downloads were by internet-indexing robots like Google, crawling the web for free content.’

‘The established dogma is that freely-available scientific articles are cited more because they are read more,’ said Davis. ‘We found that open-access publishing may reach more readers than subscription-access publishing, but there is no evidence that freely-accessible articles are cited any more than subscription-access articles.’

The research was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and is published in the British Medical Journal.